Reject Lauretta Onochie as INEC commissioner, CSOs tell senate

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A coalition of 11 civil society organisations (CSOs) has called on the senate to reject the nomination of Lauretta Onochie, a presidential aide as commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The CSOs in a petition dated June 16 which was forwarded to the office of the senate president stated that Onochie has questionable integrity, and lacks neutrality to be a commissioner of the electoral body.

The coalition includes Yiaga Africa, Peering Advocacy and Advancement Centre in Africa (PAACA), International Press Centre (IPC), Institute for Media and Society (IMS), and The Albino Foundation.

Others are Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD), Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF), Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) and CLEEN Foundation.

“The constitution mandates that a person nominated as an INEC National Commissioner should be non-partisan. Section 156(1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria clearly prohibits the appointment of any person who is a member of a political party as a member of INEC,” the coalition said.

“To further ensure the neutrality of the members of INEC, the Constitution clearly mandates in the Third Schedule, Part 1, Item F, paragraph 14 (1) that a National Commissioner shall be non-partisan and a person of unquestionable integrity.

“Mrs. Lauretta Onochie is not only a card-carrying member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), and a Special Assistant to President Buhari on social media, but she is also notorious for her partisan, biased, and in some instances inflammatory comments on national issues targeted at perceived or imagined enemies of the Buhari government

“Given her antecedents, it is highly unlikely that she will remain neutral and objective if successfully screened as one of INEC’s National Commissioners. We contend that her appointment will greatly undermine the neutrality and impartiality of the Independent National Electoral Commission and it will increase mistrust in the INEC and Nigeria’s electoral process.

“The third requirement is that a person nominated as INEC’s National Commissioner should be “a person of unquestionable integrity”. Unfortunately, Mrs. Onochie lacks the integrity to serve as INEC’s National Commissioner due to her previous antics on social media.

“To this end, we the undersigned implore you to use your good office to completely reject the nomination of Mrs. Lauretta Onochie as a National Commissioner into Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); urge President Buhari to withdraw her nomination in the public interest and in furtherance of his commitment to leave a legacy of a truly independent electoral institution that enjoys the trust and confidence of citizens and electoral stakeholders.”

In 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari askedthe upper legislative chamber to screen and confirm Onochie as INEC chairman.

Many Nigerians condemned the nomination over concerns that Onochie would be partisan.

On June 9, Senate President Ahmad Lawan asked the committee on INEC to screen Onochie — the committee is expected to report back in two weeks.

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